Leesburg Town Councilman Ron Campbell again has his eyes set on the town’s highest elected seat.
Campbellon Tuesday qualifiedfor November’s mayoral ballot. It will be his second time challenging incumbent Kelly Burk. In 2018, he finished third in a race that also featured Councilman Tom Dunn.
Unlike in 2018, Campbell’s own council term expires in December, meaning the mayor’s seat is a must-win for him to remain on the council dais. He said the issues before the council and its current dysfunction level made a mayoral run imperative.
“It just didn’t make sense for me to look simply at my seat, but at the kind of leadership we needed,” he said.
He intends to challenge Burk this go-around for the Loudoun County Democratic Committee endorsement. That decision is planned for Friday night. It could mark a quick end to the campaign for the one who does not receive the endorsement.
Campbell points to the LCDC rules that state “candidates who seek LCDC endorsement must sign a pledge to drop out of the race if they fail to receive the endorsement.” Both he and Burk confirmed toLoudoun Nowthat they have signed that pledge. County Registrar Judy Brown said, although both candidates have qualified to appear on the ballot, there is still time to remove themselves from the ballot since not all candidates for November’s races have been determined.
Campbell only recently returned to the LCDC, but maintains he has been a lifelong Democrat. He challenged the LCDC on its membership rules in 2018, alleging that requiring a signed loyalty pledge to support only Democratic candidatescreated an atmosphere of voter suppression. He said neither the LCDC, the 10th District Congressional Committee, nor the state Democratic Party allowed him the opportunity to plead his case. While Campbell was endorsed by the LCDC in his first council run in 2016, he did not seek its endorsement two years ago in his first challenge to Burk.
Fast forward to 2020, “so much was at stake that I believed I could work within the party system and change outcomes. I have to subject myself to criticism of why I left [the LCDC], which I don’t think people fully understand, and really appeal to the good nature of people. At least I get a chance to be heard. For this town I believe it was more important than my personal feelings,” he said.
Campbell said the May 31“I Can’t Breathe” marchhe helped organize showed him the power of, and need for, healing, which also encouraged him to reach back out to the LCDC.
He emphasizes that his campaign is not about running against Burk, but what he can bring to the table as mayor. Heinstead wants to focus on what’s at stake for Leesburg as it looks toward when the new council will take its seats Jan. 1.
His first priority, if elected, is to schedule a strategic planning retreat with all members of the council. That hasn’t happened since shortly after he took office in January 2017, he noted. That retreat would give council members an opportunity to come up with a list of goals and objectives, and also revise its rules of procedure, which, among other things, limit the amount of time council members have to ask questions or offer comments during meetings.
His second priority is to repair Leesburg’s relationship with Loudoun County.
“We can’t have these strained relationships that make for less amounts of communication between the county and the town. We all pay county taxes. We pay town taxes. How we value our working relationships with members of the Board of Supervisors cannot be broken down politically. We also need to repair our relationship with our Leesburg District representative [Supervisor Kristen Umstattd]. It’s not enough to meet with one member of council and think she’s met with all members of council. It’s also about being heard. If I go to a Board of Supervisors meeting [to speak] I’m treated as a petitioner. I think our relationship has to be more high level than that,” Campbell said.
Thirdly, Campbell believes the town needs its own human services program to work in conjunction with Loudoun County.
Those who vote Campbell for mayor are getting an experienced leader, with financial and organizational executive experience, he said.
“They’re also getting a compassionate person. Someone who doesn’t talk about being in the community, but is in the community. Someone who doesn’t talk about listening, but listens. They’re getting a person who does believe people over politics. While we all have our partisan interests, it doesn’t mean that I will not respect people regardless of party and I think I’ve proven that time and time again. They’re getting a person who’s going to be a visionary, who thinks about how to engage residents, what kind of town we’re becoming. I’m interested in those kinds of conversations on a broad public scale,” he said.
“Some people think I’m a bad Democrat,” Campbell said. “I think I’m a good citizen.”